Dougal Wilson, director of ‘Monty The Penguin’ and ‘Buster the Boxer’ commercials for John Lewis, and Kim Gehrig director of Sport England’s ‘The Girl Can’ campaign, were among the speakers inspiring students at the annual NFTS Commercials Day, held at Channel 4.

Multi-award winning director Kim Gehrig worked for 10 years as a Creative at top agency Mother before becoming a director.  She told students that working as a Creative taught her the importance of looking at the end line of a brief and trying to understand the strategy behind it, so as to get to the heart of what the commercial should be about.

(Lucy Blakstad & Kim Gehrig with NFTS students)

Kim’s commercials include John Lewis Christmas ‘Man in the Moon’ and the ‘This Girl Can’ adverts for Sport England.  She encouraged students to find their own voice rather than to try to mimic anyone else’s style or way of working.

Directing duo Si&Ad emphasised the importance of conveying emotion and telling a story succinctly.  “You can tell a story that means something in 60 seconds”.  The multi-award winning duo spoke of their admiration for the work and career path of fellow Academy director, Jonathan Glazer - who went on from directing commercials such as the iconic Guinness ‘Surfer’ to films such as Sexy Beast and Under The Skin.  Si&Ad talked students through the process of receiving a script, writing treatments, pitching and making a commercial.

(Bart Yates, Executive Producer and Head of BlinkInk)

BAFTA winning documentary director Lucy Blakstad discussed the process of achieving the authentic style that is a hallmark of her work, including her ground-breaking advert for Dove – the first to feature real women.

NFTS animation graduate Nick Losse, one half of award-winning directing duo Ubik, who work in both live-action and animation in the US and in the UK, shared insights and advice on developing treatments and pitches. 

Bart Yates, Executive Producer and Head of BlinkInk, talked to students about showreels - advising them to “keep it short and punchy.”  And he revealed the process of developing the Great British Bake Off animation for Channel 4, directed by BlinkInk duo Parabella.

Joseph Mann, one of the directors at BlinkInk – the art and animation arm of production company Blink, showed students behind the scenes stages of making his award-winning stop-motion animation for Cravendale, ‘Barry The Biscuit Boy’.

(Jigsaw Head of Marketing, Alex Kelly)

Students heard about things from the client’s point of view from Jigsaw Head of Marketing, Alex Kelly – responsible for the recent headline-grabbing ‘Heart Immigration’ campaign.  Alex included some advice from Tom Ewart, head of Jigsaw’s Agency, ‘The Corner’ on how to win a pitch - ‘listen’ and ‘only pitch work you believe in’.   

(NFTS students with Dougal Wilson)

The final speaker was long-term supporter of the NFTS Commercials Day, frequently acclaimed as the UK’s best Commercials Director – Dougal Wilson.  Dougal showed some of his early, ultra low budget work, made in his spare time with friends while working at the Leith agency, alongside his award-laden work for companies such as John Lewis, Ikea, Lurpak and his multi award-winning ‘Superhumans’ piece for Channel 4.  He advised students “It’s really important to have a strong idea.  Ideally one that you can describe in a sentence or two.  Keep the idea simple and then the execution will expand it.” 

Dougal concluded, “You have to make commercials funny or emotional – or why would people watch them?”

The NFTS runs a Diploma in Directing Commercials – for more information, please visit